A life worth living - Robert J. Murray: 1926 - 2022
It is with a heavy heart, and in loving celebration, that we announce the passing of Robert J. Murray.
Many of us will remember gregarious Bob. Others, intellectual Bob. Still others, hospice volunteer Bob. Orator Bob. Science lover Bob. Political pundit Bob. Theologian Bob. Business Professor Bob. WWII veteran Bob. Gardener Bob. Pie baking connoisseur Bob. Taxist Bob. Philanthropist Bob. Deep sea fisher Bob. Emotional rollercoaster Bob (including both angry Bob and heartfelt Bob; he was Irish after all) and of course, his proudest distinction to all - "honorary Swiss" Bob.
Ironically, Bob Murray's inability to stay inside a box was the very thing that defined him best - particularly during his later years. As the decades passed, he became increasingly uncomfortable with comfort zones; whether in practice and theory. This was perhaps best encapsulated in his favorite Socratic quote...which he rephrased to something like:
"The more I learn, the more I realize how little I truly know."
That's why we were proud, but not surprised, when he earned the distinction of becoming Drew University's oldest doctoral recipient- as an 87 year old, bright eyed, spring chicken. This, not long after his wife did the very same.
If a love for learning was a passion Bob felt he could control, he'd meet his match in 1947. That was when he was introduced to Sophie, his wife of 68 years.
We never needed to ask why Sophie was the apple of his eye. It was all too obvious. He doted over her wit, her charm and most of all, her fiery independence. I can't count the number of times, moments after a clever joke, teasing jab, or a less than couth quip from Sophie, Bob's eyes would light up with joy. He'd shake his head in "disbelief"- and after a fit of giggles, he'd look at the rest of us with an expression that said, 'can you believe this woman?!' That was Bob speak for "I'm absolutely smitten."
Speaking of the apple of his eye, we'd be remiss if we failed to mention Bob's famous pies. They came from recipes passed down from his mother, forged in the furnace of his family lineage, and synthesized in his early years, growing up on the farm in Elmira, New York.
He made many varieties, but that apple pie...you'd have to taste it to believe it. It was only a matter of time before some of his grandkids petitioned to formally change his name from "Grandpa" to "Grandpie." Eventually, some of us just called him "Pie," myself included.
Just a few of Bob's other lifelong hobbies included gardening, deep sea fishing and reading the New York Times, coffee in hand. I'll always remember Bob in the kitchen, proudly donning a Swiss-made apron, carving up a turkey, cutting up a honied ham, or pulling those fresh pies out of the oven.
For nearly two decades, Bob volunteered dutifully for hospice. He may have been a renaissance man, but this was surely his truest calling. For eighteen years he sat by the bedside of dying patients- talking about their lives, sharing stories, and helping them find peace in their transition. He was perfect for the role. A gift of the gab, an obsession with theology and philosophy, and a genuine love for all walks of life. Could there have been a better fit?
Bob was born on Oct. 1, 1926 to Harriett and James Murray. He was predeceased by his brother, John and his sister, Mary Helen Keevins. The beloved husband of Sophie Flatz Murray, father to Danny, Liz, Katy, Tessie and Peter. Grandfather to Matt, Steven, Andy, Phil, Lauren, Becky, Carla, Markus and Hannah. Great grandfather to Ryan, Kellan, Molly, Evelyn, Madeline, Bowie, Charlie, and Lily, soon to join the party.
The person writing this is one of Bob's grandchildren. In my teens and twenties, I watched Sophie and Bob (otherwise known as Grahnny and Grandpa/Grandpie/Grosspapa) pour love into Markus and Hannah- our youngest cousins. When Hannah was a little girl, I remember how regularly Bob raved about her reading skills. He couldn't have been prouder. Hannah, you already know it, but Grandpa loved you to the moon and back. It was in watching this dynamic, that I realized consciously what I already knew viscerally. Sophie and Bob loved, and will always love all of us like that. And we love them too.
In the end, I have no doubt that Bob didn't end up getting answers to many of his deepest questions. Thankfully, he took comfort in knowing that life's secrets weren't his to decode...only to ponder. Like my Grandpie, I cannot say the meaning of it all. All I can say is that when I go, if I've experienced half of what he did, I will have a life worth living.
Bob is gone in body, but not in soul. His lessons will live on with us every day. Ultimately, I think that is his dream come true.
We'll love you always, Bob Murray.